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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Johnny English Reborn

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

There's so much to commend in "Johnny English Reborn" (Universal), a comedy sequel which has none of the scatological humor of its predecessor—2003's "Johnny English"—that it seems a shame to highlight, and quibble about, a single vulgar sight gag.

Still, since it's such an unfortunate anomaly in an otherwise recommendable movie, here goes:

As the proceedings open, British secret agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is undergoing martial-arts training in China, hoping to make himself invincible after an earlier spy operation in Mozambique has gone terribly wrong. Part of this training involves pulling ever-larger rocks that—as we can tell by implication—are attached to his private parts. The payoff, though, doesn't emerge until a full 90 minutes later, during a climactic fight with an evil double agent, when Johnny is shown to be impervious to being kicked in the crotch.

Fortunately, this is the only dubious, and dull, gag in the film, as Johnny—a combination of Atkinson's much-celebrated Mr. Bean and Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin of the "Naked Gun" franchise—overcomes any and all obstacles in elaborately droll set-pieces and employs the occasionally funny weapon, including a Rolls-Royce that responds to voice commands.

Like Mr. Bean, Johnny is at his funniest and most sympathetic when he's competently triumphing over severe odds. We're not laughing at Johnny, but with him. Younger adolescents are unlikely to understand some of the dry James Bond references, but adults will, and the in-jokes aren't prevalent enough to put this into the cult-film category.

The plot—as scripted by William Davies and Hamish McColl and directed by Oliver Parker—has Johnny rebounding from an operation in which the new president of Mozambique was assassinated while under his supposed protection.

On his way to uncovering the people responsible, Johnny continually embarrasses his boss Pamela (Gillian Anderson) and lurches toward a romance with psychologist Kate (Rosamund Pike).

The film contains some cartoonish violence, a single tasteless visual joke and fleeting mildly crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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John Henry Newman: John Henry Newman, the 19th-century's most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both Churches. <br /><br />Born in London, England, he studied at Oxford's Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College and for 17 years was vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin. He eventually published eight volumes of <i>Parochial and Plain Sermons</i> as well as two novels. His poem, "Dream of Gerontius," was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.<br /> <br />After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Church's debt to the Church Fathers and challenged any tendency to consider truth as completely subjective.<br /> <br />Historical research made Newman suspect that the Roman Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus established. In 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by St. Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland. <br /><br />Before Newman, Catholic theology tended to ignore history, preferring instead to draw deductions from first principles—much as plane geometry does. After Newman, the lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.<br /> <br />Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length <i>Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine</i>, <i>On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine</i>, <i>Apologia Pro Vita Sua</i> (his spiritual autobiography up to 1864) and <i>Essay on the Grammar of Assent</i>. He accepted Vatican I's teaching on papal infallibility while noting its limits, which many people who favored that definition were reluctant to do.<br /><br />When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto <i>"Cor ad cor loquitur"</i> (Heart speaks to heart). He was buried in Rednal (near Birmingham) 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.<br /><br />Three years after Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the University of Pittsburgh. In time, his name was linked to ministry centers at many public and private colleges and universities in the United States.<br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park (near Birmingham). The pope noted Newman's emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison. American Catholic Blog God’s job, I think, is to keep lovingly disrupting our lives, and our job is to see if there are fresh opportunities for faith hidden within those disruptions. As a result, God keeps finding fresh ways to shake up our complacencies and challenge us to resist the seductive temptation to play the victim.

 
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